Digby was to spend the next two and half years aboard the Europa. He was almost immediately promoted from Captain's servant to Able Seaman and shortly after, to Midshipman. On 4 July 1787, after a brief return to England, he was appointed, first to the Janus and then the Salisbury on the North American station. Digby's father died in November 1788 and he returned home but by December he was aboard the sloop Racehorse trying to stop the smuggling trade in the North Sea. He returned to England once more on 22 September 1789 and did not go to sea again until the following August during which time he passed his lieutenant's exam. After a short probationary period aboard HMS Bellerophon, he was confirmed as Fourth Lieutenant of the Lion in October 1790. Returning from the West Indies in September 1791, Digby spent a year and eight months in England dealing with family affairs, following the death of his mother.
On 5 May 1793, Digby was appointed First Lieutenant of HMS Eurydice serving in the Channel Squadron, and from there to the Proserpine on 16 February 1794. Appointed Second Lieutenant to the 5th rate HMS Pallas on 25 March, he received a commendation for saving hundreds of lives when, on 1 May 1795, the first-rate HMS Boyne caught fire and exploded in Spithead. Digby took a small boat close into the blazing ship to rescue men struggling in the water despite the risk of instant annihilation should the ammunition store catch alight, as happened later that day. Shortly after, on 20 May 1795, Digby joined HMS Dictator as First Lieutenant and stayed with her until he was promoted in August that year.
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